Many beneficiaries are being tripped up by Medicare’s confusing coverage rules. Federal law prohibits the health care program from paying for annual physicals, and patients who get them may be on the hook for the entire amount. Beneficiaries pay nothing for an “annual wellness visit,” which the program covers in full as a preventive service. “It’s important for beneficiaries, when they call to make an appointment, use those magic words, ‘annual wellness visit,’” said Leslie Fried of the National Council on Aging. Otherwise, “people think they are making an appointment for an annual wellness visit and it ends up they are having a complete physical.” To add more confusion, beneficiaries can opt for a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit within the first year of joining Medicare Part B, which covers physician services. And, some Medicare Advantage plans cover annual physicals for their members, free of charge.

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